Andy Pasztor hasn’t been very fond of SpaceX over the years, but his recent article on SpaceX’s double-launch weekend is something else. Let’s start here:
They used a little bit more than just the engines.
Right now, SpaceX flies one variant of one launch vehicle. Arianespace flies 3 different vehicles with 2 configurations of Ariane 5. The king of configuration, ULA, flies 17 total configurations—4 Delta IV Medium configurations, Delta IV Heavy, and 12 Atlas V configurations. And those numbers don’t include the upcoming dual engine Centaur variants, which will push ULA’s configuration count to double digits.
How any honest, thinking journalist could write such a sentence about SpaceX boggles my mind.
And finally, on Falcon Heavy:
This is right down the middle of what is typically said about Falcon Heavy—it’s been delayed years, SpaceX might finally get around to it this year, and tons of customers are clamoring to fly on it.
To be fair, it isn’t only Pasztor who is missing the mark on Falcon Heavy—it’s just about everyone.
Quite honestly, there is almost zero current demand for it. The only known payloads on SpaceX’s manifest that Falcon 9 could not lift are Red Dragon missions and the private lunar flight.
All other manifested Falcon Heavy flights are launches that SpaceX could fly on Falcon 9 but would rather not, because they hate flying Falcon 9 expendably. STP-2 only requires Falcon Heavy because the Air Force is using the low-priority research mission to certify the launch vehicle—it is nowhere close to a Falcon Heavy-class payload.
The lack of existing demand now doesn’t mean there aren’t payloads that will require Falcon Heavy once it’s flying—there is almost certainly an “If you build, it they will come.” dynamic at play. But the idea that there are customers elbowing each other out of the way like it’s Black Friday at Target is a bit of an embellishment.